6.10.2011

Unmitigated Good

The youth group at my dad's church has this game that they play occasionally, called, "Chocolate-Covered What?". It's pretty sick and twisted. The basic premise is to take baby onions, anchovies, cubes of souse (a miscellaneous-pork-parts composite), hot peppers, olives, and other foods that do not combine well with much of anything, dip them in chocolate, and entice teenagers to eat them. It's sort of like if I came to visit you with a beautiful box of chocolates, only to tell you that one in every five contained a candied cockroach--only with a 100% chance of disgusting, instead of a 20% chance. That kind of experience tends to make one wary of unidentified chocolates and the hands that offer them.

On a similar note, I was hanging out with one of my friends the other night, and she asked me if I like licorice. I replied in the affirmative, and she offered me a large, grayish, dubious-looking ball--Dutch licorice. It was potent. Then she dug around in the cupboard and got out a back of Dutch licorice candies of different shapes and sizes, and had me try one of each. Two were utterly, mouth-twistingly vile and salty. They looked like tasty candy (mostly), but appearance was the only common ground. Then she offered me another one, claiming that it actually tasted good. I looked at it, looked at her, looked at it again, voiced my doubts, and, finally, cautiously bit into it. It wasn't bad. Still. It might have been.

When I was in seminary and taking fun classes like systematic theology, I frequently spent my morning traffic jams thinking about various lessons I was learning or memorizing verses or praying. One of my favorite meditations during that time was the goodness of God. Psalm 119:68 says, "You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes." I would just roll that truth over in my head and try to wrap my mind around it. I couldn't, but the attempt made me happy. God is good. We have to learn to be good. God doesn't. We have to have a source of goodness outside of ourselves to understand about good. We lie by instinct; we must be taught to tell the truth. We withhold and steal naturally; we share under the influence of others. God is good. God always tells the truth, always. God gives freely because it is His nature to give. There is no shadow whatsoever to God; He is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. He is good, all by Himself. He doesn't have to look for an example of good to learn from something outside of Himself. His very nature is good. He is solid good, all the way through. Unmitigated good.

I don't know about you (though I have my suspicions), but I often treat God with the same caution and suspicion that would mark my approach to an unidentified chocolate at a youth night, as though there were a nasty surprise in the middle. I'm only just beginning to see that attitude for what it is... disbelief in His goodness. I know it intellectually, but believing it is a whole 'nother animal.

I'm thinking about this because in another few weeks my discipleship group and I are going to come upon the story of Abraham and Isaac. For twenty-four years Abraham was learning about God's goodness as he waited for the fulfilment of the promise of a son. Now he had his promised son, had had him till the boy was old enough to carry wood for his dad, and everything he knew about God's goodness was suddenly (from a human perspective) utterly reversed by the command, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Gen. 22:2). I would have felt as though every light in the universe had suddenly gone dark and cold, that the ground was made of knives and the sky of lead, that heaven, as earth, was suddenly red in tooth and claw. Abraham, Romans says, "did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in the faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform" (4:20-21). He walked for three days in the silence after that command, toiled up the mountain with his beloved son, bound him, laid him on the wood, and raised his hand to slaughter him. He believed that God was good and could therefore be trusted. Seeing no other way but to trust Him, Abraham assumed that God would somehow raise his son from the dead, though it had never yet been done. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." The logic of his thinking went something like:
1. God is good.
2. God has kept every promise He has made so far.
3. God promised me a son in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
4. This is my son right here, evidence of God's power and faithfulness.
5. God promised that I would become the father of many nations through this son.
6. If that promise is to come true, this son has to be alive to have children.
7. God has commanded me to kill my son.
8. Isaac's death negates God's promise.
9. God keeps His promises.
10. Isaac's death will not be permanent.

The kicker was that Abraham had to act on that belief to see it happen. He had to act in defiance of what he could see, in radical faith in the goodness of his God, and he had to carry it through from gathering the materials, to walking three days, to climbing the mountain, to drawing back the knife and striking. He stepped out into the abyss and found his feet firmly planted. Such is the goodness of God.

God is good, all the way through. If (pardon my comparison) you drilled through God as men drill through earth or ice for core samples, you would find nothing but pure good. Abraham stepped out, believing in God's goodness, and he was not disappointed. If we truly understood God's goodness, how would it change our response to Him and to our circumstances?

Praises
  • God has given me comfort in being here even as some of my roles change.
  • Some of my friends have heard about God's answer to prayer in preventing the sale of the house and have asked for prayer about a big decision in their lives.
Prayer requests
  • Pray that God would expand my understanding of His goodness and that it would change the way I perceive life and obedience.
  • Pray that I would seek God's perspective on my day to day life rather than navigating by how I feel at any given moment. Pray for grace to seek a change of perspective rather than pining away, hoping for changed circumstances.
  • Pray for divine appointments with ladies.
  • Pray for wisdom in interacting with my landlord and for openness in her.
  • Pray that I won't define myself by accomplishments or roles but by what God says about me.
  • Pray for wisdom in answering my friends' request for prayer. Pray for wisdom in how to minister as I go.
  • Pray that I would be able to be truly here in the next eight months, instead of spending my time "future-tripping" (as The Shack guy says).
Thank you for praying for me!
-Jennifer

2 comments:

Iva May said...

Sadly, sin has so tainted the hearts and minds of mankind that he dares to doubt the goodness of God and the Word of God. Love you, Jen! Keep the thoughtfully written blogs coming!

Mrs. Pankhurst said...

Thank you, Mom! Love you too!